The 45th Annual Newport Antique Auto Hill Climb is scheduled for Friday through Sunday as the Newport Lions Club prepares for the annual gathering of antique auto enthusiasts. Hoping to stage another record-setting festival, the Lions will stage the event over the famous 1,800-foot-long, 140-foot-high Newport Hill, once a proving ground for early automobile designs.
A lengthened schedule for practice and competition runs has allowed more than 330 cars to compete in 31 classes in timed runs over the hill, while some 500 show cars, street rods and street machines were judged alongside classic antique vehicles in nine classes for trophies. Newest additions to the competition are three antique motorcycle classes, also limited to models 1942 and older and grouped by engine displacement.
The time of each run is multiplied by the cubic inch displacement of the engine to determine the final score, so the fastest time doesn’t always guarantee a top trophy. Practice runs will be from 8 a.m. to noon and from 1 to 4:30 p.m. Saturday, and from 8 to 10 a.m. Sunday. Opening ceremonies will begin at 10:30 a.m. Sunday with competition runs starting at 11 a.m.
The festival kicks off Friday evening with the annual Dog Show and a Gospel Music Jamboree at the Newport Methodist Church, featuring The Lesters from St. Louis, Mo.
With the opening of the hill for practice runs Saturday at 8 a.m., more than 350 flea market and swap meet booths will be open for business, as well as numerous food concessions around the courthouse square. The Lions Club’s pork barbeque will also begin serving Saturday’s helping of some 20 hogs cooked for the annual feed. The Big Wheel Races for kids ages 3-8 will also be Saturday, with registration at 11:30 a.m. A Pretty Baby Contest will also be judged at 2 p.m., with prizes presented to the winners following the close of practice runs. Shortly afterward, the annual parade will wind its way through the streets of Newport. A Cruise-In and Street Dance are scheduled for Saturday evening, and the day will be capped off with a huge fireworks display at dusk.
The festival will conclude with a giant prize drawing Sunday afternoon, including the Lions Club’s 1939 Ford Pick-Up Truck with the famous Ford Flathead V-8. Copies of the three history books on the Hill Climb, covering the first Newport Hill Climb in 1909 up through the present time, will be on sale throughout the weekend.
The Newport Hill Climb likely began as an “innocent” challenge between two owners of “new-fangled” automobiles. While early autos had trouble making it up the crest of the hill, soon topping the 140-foot plus hilltop became common, but still a great struggle on the early gasoline engines. Then it wasn’t just enough to top the hill; you had to be the fastest to climb it.
The first Hill Climb was staged in 1909 and organized by the businessmen of Newport as a way to capitalize on the interest in climbing the hill. Hill climbing contests were becoming more common place, and by 1915 the newness had worn off, and board-track and other circular racing forms were becoming more popular. The financial returns to the businessmen shrank, as did the interest in staging the event, and the 1916 event never materialized.
Lions Clubs are an international service organization, which sponsor such projects as the Leader Dog School for the Blind in Rochester, Mich., cancer research and treatment facilities at the Indiana University Medical Center, eye glass and hearing aid recycling projects and diabetes awareness programs. Local Lions Clubs also support various other groups and organizations in their home communities.
More information on the Newport Antique Auto Hill Climb is available from the Newport Lions Club, Box 398, Newport, IN, 47966, or by calling 765-492-4220. Information is also available at www.newport